As one of our best-sellers, you may be aware that Hackleback caviar has been unavailable this year. But why is that? The answer helps illuminate the importance of understanding where your caviar comes from — something that we at The Caviar Co. have been dedicated to since day one.
The short answer for this nationwide shortage is poor environmental conditions, but there are many factors coming together that deserve a closer look:
As the last commercially available, wild American caviar, Hackleback (scaphirhynchus platorynchus) is native to the Mississippi and Missouri river systems. Prehistoric Hackleback have swum wild in North America for over 70 million years. The smallest of the sturgeon species, these fish rarely exceed five pounds and mature more quickly when compared to their cousins. Their eggs are a jet black color, small in size, with a clean, mineral flavor and easy texture. Coupled with the modest price (for fine caviar), all these elements add up to make American Hackleback one of the most popular caviar options in the U.S.
The Declining Environment
Sturgeon are incredibly resilient and easily adapt to changes in their environment. However, the heightened threat of rapid industrialization and global warming have had major consequences for sturgeon populations worldwide. Despite being one of the fastest-growing Sturgeon, lower water levels and higher temperatures have a direct impact on the ability to fish for wild Hackleback. In 2022, water levels in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were devastatingly low due to a flash drought; local fishermen have not seen American caviar fishing conditions this poor in almost twenty years.
Caviar is having a moment. From Osetra-topped Doritos on TikTok to bumps at major events, interest in this delicacy is at an all-time high — particularly for more everyday American caviars like Hackleback and Paddlefish. Our domestic farming partners have shared that recent demand for their product has been the highest ever.
So when can we expect Hackleback to return? The fishing season typically begins in the early spring and upcoming rainfall should improve fishing conditions, but our farming partners are concerned that if severe weather patterns persist, American caviar quotas may continue to decrease year after year.
Unfortunately, mislabeling can occur in the caviar industry by companies duped by suppliers or re-sellers who want to profit dishonestly. Look out for "Hackleback" caviar with tiny eggs and a red tint, as it could be Bowfin roe. Or if the eggs are large and creamy/nutty tasting, they could be a lower-grade White Sturgeon.
Hackleback caviar should look like this: